Ten percent more plants from the same number of seeds, faster germination, healthier plants and 25% more fresh weight at harvesting* – by using ‘plasma agriculture’ to clean and prime the seeds in one operation, the new Zayndu Aurora Z25 system has been shown to increase productivity in Vertical Farms. The company is discussing its latest results at GreenTech Amsterdam (14-16 June 2022).
As energy costs bite, Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) is looking for incremental ways to boost productivity and reaching a higher volume of produce in a shorter time is key to this.
Seed pathologist Dr Alberto Campanaro leads the R&D facility at Zayndu. He says that the company has so far treated over 60 varieties across 23 different species of plant and is developing priming recipes to enable customers to optimise growth.
“With seed treated by Aurora our customers are seeing faster and more uniform germination. Within four days there are significantly more plants at the same life stage, and this translates into great volume at harvest.”
Aurora generates a plasma in its drum, when an electric current moves through air, splitting oxygen and nitrogen molecules and creating a powerful disinfectant for the seeds. It leaves no residues.
The plasma treatment also primes the seed chemically and physically. The reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) created induce hormonal changes in the seed, which can influence plant growth from seed to crops**. Studies report increased root length and enhanced growth of seedlings, depending on the dose given. Physical changes to the surface of the seed make its coat more permeable to water, triggering germination.
Growing recipes are likely to extend to plant breeding, according to Diego Durantini, Interdisciplinary Manager at Agri-TechE, a business networking organisation of which Zayndu and many CEA companies are members. Diego was previously a plant breeder for Ernst Benary Samenzucht GmbH and he believes that plant breeding in Vertical Farming will become increasingly important.
“In vertical farming, volume is important rather than height. I can see an opportunity for optimising plants for these conditions: each variety with its own ‘growing recipe’ encompassing priming, light, and feed. Already some Vertical Farms are starting their own in-house breeding programmes, and we are seeing start-ups specifically focussed on breeding gaining investment.
“If the priming creates greater growth uniformity then this is a huge plus in a controlled environment. On a ten-week crop, gaining a week will enable almost one extra harvest a year; immediately that’s a 10% increase in productivity.”
Zayndu will be on stand 05171VF at GreenTech Amsterdam 14-16th June 2022.
* In trials with customer seed of Red Amaranth 94% of treated seed germinated by day 4, compared to 70% of untreated seed. At day 24 treated crop had over 25% greater fresh weight. For Spinach, treatment with Aurora reduces time to harvest by 2.5 days enabling 19 crops/year, compared to 17 for untreated seed.
** Plasma Agriculture: Review from the perspective of the plant and its ecosystem, P.Ranieri et Al Plasma Process Polymers 2020.